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Shy Guy

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Shy Guy

Published 1947

Phil (Dick York), new in his high school, follows his father's suggestion and observes the most popular students to determine what makes them popular. By offering to help others he becomes popular himself and sheds his shyness.

Run time 12:48
Producer Coronet Instructional Films
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W



Ken Smith sez: Dick York at his dorkiest. Dick's father is especially strange in this classic. The film that established Coronet as THE social guidance filmmaker. Required viewing.

the first film about "fitting in" (as opposed to following regmented rules of etiquette). Fitting in implies "going along with the crowd" not the crowd going along with adults.
"he applies the lessons he has learned through observation and becomes very popular" (very scientific)
"he comes to realize that helpfulness, interest in others, and a willingness to share experiences are important"
"Again as on a previous night, Bill's father descends the stairs...this time with a tray of Coca-Cola as treats for the group."
"the motion picture does permit students to identify themselves with charcaters in the picture and then begin their discussion...."
"The film does an excellent job of 'holding the mirror up to youth;' it avoids, in a highly commendable fashion, the effect of being staged."
If the "shy guy" were living in the Nineties, he'd be a hero. But hackers, geeks and bad grrls weren't too popular in 1947, and this movie's all about "fitting in."
ÒPhil,Ó played by Dick York, later to become famous as Darrin in the television program Bewitched, is the son of an apparently single father who seems recently to have undergone corporate relocation, and things are very different for Phil than they were Òback in Morristown.Ó Phil has a problem Òfitting in,Ó and it affects everything from the nature of the kids in the new town (ÒdifferentÓ) to what they wear (Ònot jackets like me, but a regular sweaterÓ). Armed only with confusing advice from his father, Phil has to reorganize his behavior and make a new home for himself. Moving is tough on kids, especially teenagers Ñ this is the same kind of story that kicked off the TV show 90210 and many others.
Since social guidance films (especially if produced by Coronet) generally have to resolve problems before the end credits, Phil becomes the toast of the classroom within fifteen minutes, after finding that the ÒgangÓ is eager to use his Òcombination record player and radio transmitterÓ at the next dance. And Dad looks pretty pleased.
Educational film authority Ken Smith points out that Shy Guy marks a kind of turning point in postwar history. When Mr. Norton advises Phil to "look around him" and see what the other kids are wearing and how they behave, he's conceding parental authority to the "gang" and, ultimately, helping to legitimize the formation of a distinct youth culture that rests on group identity and validation rather than the authority of elders. Such a youth culture probably has its roots in the wartime autonomy that teens experienced, but here the adults are okaying it. This change, of course, is one of the key social currents in postwar America, and can be traced to the social movements of the Sixties and Seventies.
ÒThe film does an excellent job of Ôholding the mirror up to youthÕ; it avoids, in a highly commendable fashion, the effect of being staged.Ó (Educational Screen, October 1947).
Coronet Instructional Films (founded 1939, now part of Paramount Communications' Simon & Schuster subsidiary) was one of the leading producers and distributors of educational films, selling one million prints of their productions by 1973. Many of the most interesting social guidance films were made at their Glenview, Illinois studios, frequently with nonprofessional actors chosen to provide realistic role models for American children. Dick York was, however, a professional, and appeared in over 150 educational, industrial, military and advertising films, including Combat Fatigue: Insomnia, A Brighter Day in Your Kitchen, How To Read a Book, and The Last Date. Besides Bewitched, he acted in movies and Broadway shows. Until his death in 1992, he resided in Rockford, Michigan.



Reviewer: KWorld - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 17, 2017
Subject: Not a Bad Life After All
So Phil changes his name to Darrin Stephens and lands a great job at McMann and Tate advertising agency. He falls in love and marries an absolutely gorgeous blonde girl named Samantha, who with the twitch of her nose can conjure up anything his little heart desires! They purchases a nice home at 1269 Morning Glory Circle in suburban America and they have two kids (a girl and a boy, of course)! It appears the "Shy Guy" did pretty well for himself! Wonder how Beezy Barnes made out in his life's journey!
Reviewer: Robert B. Livingston - - November 18, 2013
Subject: Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame is the narrator.
Reviewer: dvorak204 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 24, 2010
Subject: simpler days
You know...I'm as liberal as a hippy biker can be, but watching these movies with their repressed conformist themes makes me sort of wish for a simpler times. Dad coming home from the office. Mom (missing in this video) upstairs making meat-loaf, and Phil (Dick York) having trouble making friends at a new school. Seems that back in 1947 there was a lot less pressure on teens, no facebook status updates, no text messaging, no ipods or cell-phones. Actual interaction with your peers. What is the equivlant of the 'drugstore' where the teens meet in this day and age? hanging out in front of 7-11? This is a good video that really takes you back to a time in America just after WW II, when everything was getting back to normal. Who knew 10 years later, Some kid from Tupelo Mississippi would screw everything up?
Reviewer: Retro Geek - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 10, 2010
Subject: Still you can't forget that you're alone!
Phil is shy and has trouble making friends at his new school. It doesn't help him that the narrator continues to remind him that he cannot forget that he is alone...alone in a crowd.

His father recommends picking out one or two of the popular kids to see what it is about them that makes them popular. What he finds is that they listen to each other, act polite, and seem genuinely interested in helping others.

As we observe Phil, we begin to understand that PHIL is the problem. When he bumps into someone, he says nothing. "There it is again, even when you bump into people they hardly know you're alive". Wah..wah..wah. Phil is steeped in self-pity with ideas that nobody is nice to him or will talk to him.

However as we watch, we notice that others do politely acknowledge Phil and even hold the door open for him at times. We notice he's invited to sit with Chick and his friends at the drugstore to join them in their discussion of the class mixer. We notice that at the class mixer, someone is actually talking to him but he isn't listening AT ALL because he's eavesdropping on another conversation he isn't a part of. That's not very polite especially after he has already determined that people flock around a good listener.

So what exactly IS Phil's problem? What is it that Phil really wants?

It appears he wants the crowd flocked around HIM at the mixer listening to HIM talk. He wants to have them gathered around HIM admiring HIS brains and HIS keen sweater. He wants them to know HE is alive by begging HIM to come to their parties.

Yes narrator, he may still have his moments of doubt and fear but as long as he can eavesdrop, take over a conversation he wasn't originally a party to, and use the record player as leverage, he'll be able to overcome his shyness and achieve total domination.


The film's message is a good one about learning to listen, being respectful and helping others. Those are valuable tools for getting along with others in society and are worth repeating today. I just don't think Phil really got it because he failed to recognize all the opportunities that presented themselves throughout the film to socialize as an integral part of the group as a whole. He seemed to want more attention on himself rather than others.

Still a great film and very entertaining to watch!
Reviewer: RockyJones - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 8, 2010
Subject: Teenage Lee Harvey Oswald
Check out the dude at 7:31.
Reviewer: LatinGal - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 22, 2008
Subject: Practical, timely advice
I don't understand the reviewers who seem determined to see something sinister in this film. The father isn't over-dressed. He's coming home from work and going downstairs to talk to his son who is home from school. Nothing sinister about there not being a mother - the father could be s single dad. The film doesn't say that the key to popularity is conformity to others. It says 'you have something to contribute to their conversation,' 'do and talk about what comes naturally to you' 'everyone is different' (rough quotes). The boy feels awkward because he doesn't dress like the other kids - it's HIS idea that he doesn't 'conform' to 'how kids are in this town.' And that's completely natural for kids and teenagers: young people are a herd of sheep, and anyone who says they are not conformists (even if they conform to the stereotype of being nonconformists) doesn't know anyone under thirty.
The father's advice is the same a psychologist friend of mine gives to shy people of all ages, kids and adults alike, and which I've given to my own (college-age) students who have wanted to make friends: Listen to others; take an interest in other people; offer to help.
There's nothing negative about the 'popular kids' here (unlike so many TV shows about toxic teens nowadays). These kids are popular because they like other people and reach out to them, listen to them and respect them - a good formula for anyone.
There's only one piece of advice missing: seek out a kid that also seems shy or friendless and make an effort to befriend him or her. Reaching out to someone else - especially another shy person who may also not know how to make friends - is one of the best ways to get over yourself and your shyness. As a naturally cripplingly shy person who has learned how to get along in any social situation, everything here makes sense. I only wish someone had told it to me before I was thirty.
This is actually a valuable video for parents to watch so they have some tips to help their shy children build the skills they need to function in a healthy, satisfying way in the company of others.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 22, 2006
Subject: "Shy Guy" is well done
A well made guidance film for teenagers of 1947.
Many of the suggestions still hold true today.
Dick York was excellent, as was the entire supporting cast. Good direction, script, and photography.
Reviewer: Kittenfish - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 16, 2006
Subject: Dick York Rules
A film with Dick York in it just can't be bad. But some of the other reviewers seem to have missed the point of this nice little film. Dad doesn't tell his son to conform. He says that everyone is different and that makes things interesting. Watching the "popular" kids teaches Dick to listen to what others have to say and to help out when you can. In other words, he should be thoughtful and kind. If that is outdated advice than times really have gotten worse.
Oh yeah, Dick York's ass looks huge in those pants.
Reviewer: cybermice - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 26, 2005
Subject: Shyness Made Easy in less than 60 minutes...
Of course, it's a lot easier to overcome shyness without Samantha's mother messing things up for Darrin. Would Dan Rather steer us wrong?
Reviewer: J. DeKay - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 27, 2005
Subject: Before he worked for McMahon & Tate...
Dick York can do no wrong... acting wise that is.
Even at this tender age, young Dick knows how to act with his eyes. Of course this was way before he landed a job at McMahon & Tate and married Samantha. Oddly, I find it impossible to watch this without thinking of Dick York looking strangely like Jim Carrey or vice versa!
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 7, 2005
Subject: Gee Dad!
Another strange Dick York Film.. Man, I am not too sure how, but he made the best!
Dick York is Shy Guy! He's having trouble meeting kids at school, he'd rather play around with his electronics. His dad comes downstairs, having apparently left his mob meeting or singing at the copa, because he's impossibly overdressed here, to try to get Shyguy out of his shell! Wear more sweaters! Seek out the popular folk! Eavesdrop on people's conversations!
Soon Dick is doing that, and well, he's the hit of the School Mixer! Heck that would be easy if all there was were apples and people singing 'Oh Susannah".
Amelie Moment: Check out where the lockers are. What the hell?

Anyways, a MUST SEE on this site!
Reviewer: DrKnapp - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 7, 2005
Subject: Welcome to Stepford
This film follows the standard socialization message of the 50's: If you want to be liked, don't be like you, be like them, or as Frank Burns once said "Individuality's fine... as long as we all do it together." In terms of the performances, Dick York does everything he can to bring life to the pedantic script; father is an authorative wind-bag, and the high school buddies -- well, let's just say that our boy might just want to spend more time in the basement soldering the amplifier to the oscillator (ick!).
Reviewer: akrongrrl - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 10, 2004
Subject: The Shy Guy
Where's Mom?
Reviewer: dynayellow - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 25, 2003
Subject: He was a shy boy, worked in the basement
Serial-killer-to-be Dick York (Sam!) can't figure out how to make friends with the popular kids. Of course, the idea that he's a nerd who hangs out in the basement making radio sets never occurs to himself, or his extremely helpful father.

On his dad's advice, Dick begins stalking the most popular kids in school, hoping to copy them. Actually, that isthe surest route to popularity I can think of.

Funny stuff, with some good advice about reaching out to others. Now Dick won't have to write manifestos and learn how to wire other things in the basement he calls home!
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 11, 2002
Subject: Shy Guy
Another 50's "social guidance" film starring Dick York. This time he's a shy, geeky teenager who would rather tinker with inventions in the basement than make friends at the new school he's just started at. His dad (he doesn't seem to have a mom) urges him to conform: "If the other kids wear sweaters, then you wear sweaters!" Who was responsible for this anywayÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂdid they really realize what they were telling kids? It's utterly amazing to watch a parent actually urging his kid to give in to peer pressure.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****. Also available on The Educational Archives, Vol. 2: Social Engineering 101, Mental Hygiene, and Our Secret Century, Vol. 3: The Behavior Offensive.
Reviewer: ExDreamer99 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 23, 2002
Subject: Shy Guy is an Absolute Classic
Can you imagine what your father might say if he wandered into your basement labratory to give you social advice? How about "Son, just find out what all the popular kids are doing, and do that. You'll be popular in no time."

If my dad had told me that, I would have taken up drugs, engaged in casual sex and taught myself how to smoke at age 15. However, in this Dick York classic, his father's advice yields a number of desirable social lessons, including the art of listening, and how to be helpful.

Cheese abounds in this short, but the lessons are sound. Did you notice the narrator's voice yet? I'll give you a get exactly one hour to figure it out.

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